National Highway Tunnel Inventory Coming Soon

The rule includes requirements for the tunnel inventory, as well as inspection procedures and the qualifications and training of tunnel inspectors.

The Federal Highway Administration's bridge inspection program tallies the number of bridges in each state and how many of them are structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The latest data (2014) show a total of 539,059 bridges, 26,117 of which (about 5 percent) were structurally deficient and 71,908 functionally obsolete. And because we're driving more than ever—a record 987.8 billion miles during the first four months of 2015, FHWA reported June 24—it stands to reason these bridges, deficient or not, are handling more traffic than ever. The numbers support Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx's urging that Congress boost spending on transportation infrastructure.

Using a rule based on its existing national bridge inspection standards, FHWA soon will have a National Tunnel Inventory and more data about the condition of highway tunnels. OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) completed its review of the proposed National Tunnel Inspection Standard rule in June 2015, and DOT's regulatory agenda indicates the final rule was to be published during July 2015.

The rule includes requirements for the tunnel inventory, as well as inspection procedures and the qualifications and training of tunnel inspectors. It will require tunnel owners to report their inspection findings to FHWA and to correct any critical findings found in those inspections.

A federal surface transportation funding law known as MAP-21, signed by President Obama on July 6, 2012, expanded FHWA's authority to include all highway tunnels. FHWA had proposed national tunnel inspection standards in July 2010 and revised them to include changes mandated by MAP-21 two years later.

FHWA said the latest data on vehicle miles traveled confirm the trends identified in a report DOT issued earlier this year that projected commercial truck shipments will increase by 43 percent as the nation's population grows by 70 million by 2045. "Increased gridlock nationwide can be expected unless changes are made in the near-term," according to the agency.

This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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